Disclaimer: I don't own Law and Order. Dick would make me his house slave if that were true.

Author's Note: One of a pair of fictions playing on the 5th anniversary of Abbie Carmichael/Angie Harmon's departure. Silly Angie, if she stayed longer, she'd be famous! This is a companion to my longer piece "Breathe (2 A.M.)". One of the two will be a fluffy context and another with angst context. For this fic, you make the call. Here I will also play with Jack's pre-series continuity with quotes on here but alas, I lost my Aftershock tape. Once I find the episode again, I'll re-edit the quotes but I don't think I deviated that much as my memory clung to more than I thought. I'm also paying with Abbie's continuity with my own take and using some of Angie's own life for filling in gaps. Take it for what it's worth.

Since this piece and its companion are songfics and the lyrics add to the piece, the true versions are on my MediaMiner org profile, which is linked to my own profile here. I rather recommend that.

Timeline: During Deep Vote.

Beta: H.Moth, I'm running out of things to say about her.

Dedication of sorts: MoonbeamDancer. She knows why.

Ready Go!

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--May 10th 2000

"Thank you, Ms. Carmichael; your resume is quite impressive. We still have four more applicants to process, we'll call you next week and let you know." The interviewer said.

"Thank you. I don't suppose I can ask what my chances are, can I?" The Texan A.D.A. quipped.

"Ms. Carmichael…." The interviewer leered.

"I had to try. Thank you." She shook the interview's hand and departed the office. She soon exited the U.S. Attorney's Southern District's office.

'There goes my lunch break. I wonder if I get the job but given everything I've been through with Jack, is it the right thing, especially now with our sights on Senator Benton?' She ignored the busy streets and focused on her rumination.

'Tomorrow we arraign her—and what a spectacle that will be. After that, we have to focus on Al Benato and Kate Pierce and getting their testimonies and around and around we go. At least we're getting somewhere with the ballot boxes Benato gave us.' She stopped at a crosswalk.

'Why am I getting so disturbed by this? It's just routine work, just…the last routine work I'll be doing in that office.' An epiphany slowly sunk in.

'I just have to keep remembering why I'm doing this as much as I hate it.'

As she crossed, she noticed a young couple walking across the street with her.

'And I'm really starting to.'

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--May 11th, 2000

Abbie was ready to take off for arraignments of the day, including one of Senator Benton as she eyed her phone. 'I hate the waiting. Ring. Ring.' She sighed. 'I'm a grown woman and I'm trying to will the phone to ring.'

Another five minutes passed. 'I better get going.' She straightened her charcoal suit jacket and scarf, grabbed her briefcase and onyx trench coat and walked out of the office. Jack was by the elevator in his dirty viridian jacket, his always interesting compromise to his navy blue suit and multi colored tie.

"Don't you look sour?" His mature voice shattered the silence as the elevator doors. The car was empty as the two entered.

"Well, arraigning a Senator isn't the best way to start the afternoon." She pressed the button to her floor. "Ground floor. You?"

"Same. Par for the course, Abbie. We'll get her." Jack's confident voice always went straight through her.

"Where are you going?"

"Debating on giving our lovely and charming reporter, Kate Pierce, another chance to open her source on Benton."

"For all the good it will do." She said, cynically.

"Sometimes we need to rest with these things on our backs, but then nothing can be said of the positive power of a good kick in the ass now and then."

The female A.D.A. had a minor smile grace her lips. "You got me there."

"It's a nice day though if you ignore the chilly winds. It's one good sign at least."

"Like it matters." Abbie continued to saturate herself in her disparagement.

"I know. Crime doesn't hold out on good weather either."

"I can just imagine if the pasty lawyers had to be exposed to all that sunshine. We'd win the majority of our cases by act of God, sorry, act of nature." He had a mirthless laugh at her comment.

"Cute."

"You're the atheist, Jack."

He sighed. "At least the scenery will change the pace. Perhaps the reporter will get a crisis of conscience and tell the truth." They just stared blankly at each other. "Or I can flap my arms and fly to the moon."

"I'd trade you if I could. I'm not looking forward to this."

"No, after this, I have to report to Nora."

She raised an eyebrow. "About what?"

"My success or lack there of with Pierce and then something else, which she's keeping tight lips on. I hate mysteries."

Abbie concealed her panic. 'She couldn't have known my plans, could she? I was so careful.'

She suddenly felt rather pensive as the doors opened to their floor. "So do I. I'll see you after the arraignment. Good luck." She nearly ran out of the elevator car.

"Yeah. Good luck." He just stared at her dwindling form as she disappeared into the corridors.

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The arraignment went as well as having wisdom teeth pulled as the judge of the day released Senator Benton without bail, using the Senator's various duties as the rationale for the discharge.

Abbie trudged around the courthouse. 'Released without bail right before a weekend. On top of the waiting, this is going to be a great weekend.' She sighed as she wandered around.

'Guess I'll get back to One P.P.' The A.D.A.'s contemplation was cut short as Jack called out to her.

"I just saw Benton and her lawyer." He commented as he joined her.

"Judge let her walk." She said, wistfully as they walked on.

"She's got a lot of juice in this courthouse."

"Makes you want to play in a bigger arena." Abbie muttered, surreptitiously.

"What?"

'I can't drop this yet. He deserves better than last minute notice.' "Nothing, nothing."

"Okay." He responded, confused.

"How did it go with Pierce?"

The E.A.D.A. joined his colleague's disappointed tone. "Still tight lipped as before. Of course there is nothing new here. Typical of journalists."

"Yes. I'm sure Nora will take this all well. Did you meet with her yet?"

"I was about to, when I saw you wandering about. Figured I'd ask what happened with Benton, among other things."

The Texan A.D.A. perked up. "Like what?"

He began to panic. "What time is it? I think time got away from me. I better get to my appointment with Nora and also tell her the bad news. I'll see you at your office later, we'll have scotch." He rapidly walked away from her.

'Typical guy. See what's underneath that armor and he runs. Oh well, I'll enjoy the scotch. I'll need it.'

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As the sun glimmered on the artificial skyline, Abbie looked intently from the window of her office after a break in paperwork.

'4:00. I hate waiting for the other shoe to drop. Wish they'd call and not wreck my weekend. But…would it be the end of the world if they didn't call? I do enjoy my job and the people are certainly an improvement from Narcotics. Yet I want to leave them, what does that say about me?'

She sighed and mulled over about going to Nora's office to swipe Adam's scotch bottle.

'One good thing with a long weekend, I'll have plenty of time to think: of the job and what to say to him and how to not to get weak on him. Damn bastard with that damn cocky grin.' The realization was setting in. 'No. I can't think about that now. Just will the damn phone to ring.'

"If you keep staring into that window, you're going to have shutter vision." A serrated but familiar voice broke through her thoughts.

"Oh, sorry." She turned herself to face Jack.

"You alright?"

"Yeah. Just one of those days."

"I can appreciate that. From my secret stash. I didn't want to bother with Nora now." He left a glass on her desk and poured one off a glass from the scotch bottle.

"You sound like your meeting went as well as my arraignment."

"Of sorts. You look like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders." He walked away to one of the chairs.

'In a sense, I do. More than he suspects.' She stared at the phone before sipping the alcohol. 'The last thing I need right now is to have that phone call and create further tension with him. I'm not ready to deal with that, just yet.' She quickly turned off the phone's ringer.

"I think you cornered the market on that."

"Not really, but it isn't good. Nora told me in no uncertain terms to "take a day off or two after the Benton case is resolved". Although I got the impression that I should spend some of this weekend on it now we're in flux with Benton and just start fresh on Monday. After all, we have all these other prosecutors; someone could pick up the slack for bit." He slumped down on one of the chairs.

"I would make a liberal joke but…" Abbie teased.

"I know, I know." He rolled his eyes.

"What were her reasons?"

"Well, in the recent cases, with Jamie returning and all the juvenile offenders, not to mention compensating for Adam's departure, she thinks I'm getting burnout. And that wouldn't be good for her "most experienced prosecutor on a major case". " He sank further into the chair and nearly gulped down the scotch.

"What did you say to her?"

"Told her I'll think about it."

She drank a dram from her glass. "We've been busier before and we've been fine. The better question is…do you think you're getting burnout?"

"No. I think I'm fine."

The A.D.A. sucked in a breath. "If it helps, I think you're just fine, although the temptation to call her bluff is tempting…on lesser people."

He sat up. "Abbie, you think I should take it?"

"I'm just saying that free time is precious with lawyers. The daily grind isn't for everyone and they don't have your track record, Hang Em High McCoy." She hoisted up her glass.

He joined her before drinking once again. "And all those late hours achieving that. I don't know. I don't want to think I've grown soft in my age."

"Jack, there are many words to describe you. Soft isn't one of them."

"Well, she is right about one thing—Benton isn't going anywhere. I could take this if I wanted to."

"Yeah, you can. I wouldn't worry about slacking off; you'll still have all the remaining paperwork to do instead of working anyway."

Jack just gawked, blank eyed at his assistant. "Thank you for that deflating moment."

Abbie grinned. "It's what I do."

"But amazingly, my workload is light. Just have to resolve the recent "Judge Dredd" issue and I'm fine." Jack dusted off his patented confident grin.

The A.D.A. tried not to seethe. "I have some but not enough to crush me. I might even get to sleep one night."

"I don't envy you."

She gazed back in a near deadpan. "Right. I'm curious on the timing. Odd to announce a day off now." She had another dram and finished off the glass.

"She said she was going to suggest it before the case but when the leads flared up, there was no right time to address it. With Benton now released for the near future, Nora saw her chance. She "didn't want me to get exhausted since the target is quite the big game." That and her observations about the recent workload and checking my habits made her become cautious."

"It's clear she's not a workaholic." She sneered in her typical acerbic wit.

"No. I like her and all but I'll spare your liberal joke."

"I could always take the investigation." 'Be the right thing to do. Besides, I got nothing better to do anyway this weekend.'

He went to her desk and poured some more. "I said that but I get the feeling from her it wouldn't hurt you to relax too."

"Me? Oh please."

"I guess she figured if I'm taking off, you being my main assistant, should as well."

Her mood soured. 'Assistant? I'd like to think I'm equal to him now.' "I don't suppose I should be surprised."

"I suppose not. But I don't think you need it either."

The Texan A.D.A.'s strain slowly dipped. "I appreciate that."

"Figures. Two workaholics wanting to work, are being subtly told not to by their boss. How is that for irony?" Jack lifted his glass again.

"Drinkable anyway. If I had any to drink."

"I'll have to fix that. So how was your day? You look like you have a lot on your mind."

"It's not one of my better days, Jack."

He came over and poured her the rest of the scotch. "Want to tell me about it?"

She became pensive. "Maybe after I sleep on it. Thanks, Jack."

"No problem. Just remember "Always to tomorrow", Abbie."

They lifted their glasses and clinked. "Always."

"You know, since we're kinda off the case briefly after tomorrow and get a free day, I hear Saturday will have nice weather, so you want to attempt to do something out there in that sunshine?

It was fortunate Abbie didn't imbibe anything or she'd have a spit take the size of a geyser. 'Oh God, oh, God, oh God.' "You—You mean like a…?"

"Oh, Oh. No. No. Just do what the kids say and "hang out". Since I know we don't outside the office, I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea being that we're both more or less free." High Em High McCoy blushed like a schoolboy.

"I…" The battleaxe Texan A.D.A. joined his blush.

"Sorry. Forget I said it. We'll chalk it off to the scotch talking." He wanted to be on any other place on Earth but her office.

"I'd love to." She blurted out.

He immediately felt recharged. "Okay. Now where would we go?"

She drew a blank. "I wouldn't know. I had no time to note the sights of the city."

"Don't worry. We'll do what we do in court—we'll wing it."

"Okay." She still was at a loss for words.

"Should I meet you at your place or you want to go to mine?"

Her mind raced to come up with a comprehensible reply. "If you meet me, you'll use that bike of yours, wouldn't you?"

His signature eyebrows elevated in delight. "That's an idea."

"No. No. I'll pick you up, we'll take my car."

"You know how to kill the rush, don't you?"

"No, I just don't want my brains on the street."

"You'd wear a helmet."

She about guffawed. "No thank you. I don't need my head to be bounced like a maraca."

"Your loss."

She rolled her eyes. "What time is good for you?"

"I don't know? 1:00? Would that be a problem?"

"If I get my paperwork done at lightspeed, no, which means you better go, so I can get it done."

He sighed. "You're right, I better get mine done too. You have my number and address?"

"I'll look it up. How many Jack McCoys can there be?"

"Do you know how many Irish males live in New York? I'll write it down and directions." He reached over on her desk, for post-it notes.

She about stood up. "Directions? I've lived in New York for two years, I think I can find…"

"Do you know where Wolf Street and 11th meet?"

The A.D.A. tried to hide her ignorance. "Well I…"

"Proven my point. You didn't tell me how your day was." He asked as he jotted his information down.

Abbie revived her panic. "I'll tell you tomorrow; it can keep."

"Alright, but don't let it drag you down too much. Some burdens aren't worth it." Jack looked out from the window of the sun still shining brightly against the manmade backdrop.

"The night hasn't even begun yet but still, I better get to work. Tell me if any change in plans." He poured off some more scotch for her and walked away.

"For later. Comes in handy when dealing with paperwork." He echoed from the hall.

She wanted to slam her head on the desk. 'I can't believe this. Of all the times to ask me, he has to do it on the weekend before I announce my…' She glared back at the phone and picked up the receiver and heard a beep.

'I got a message. Didn't before Jack showed up.' She dialed the number for the service.

"You received—1—new message." The recorder spouted.

'Oh God. Here we go.'

"Hello, Ms. Carmichael." It was the interviewer from the Southern District. "This is Ms. Harmon from the Southern District calling. We have gone through our list of applicants and find you the best qualified for the job. We know you still have obligations with the New York D.A. and wait for you to resolve your lingering cases. However, we need your answer by tomorrow, Saturday, or if you're that busy, Monday the absolute latest. You know the number. Have a good weekend."

She slowly hung up. "I got the job."

"I got the job."

'If only I were happy about it. Should I call them tomorrow or wait til Monday? I don't know what to do. When in doubt…there is paperwork to do.'

She pulled out her recent files and began her paperwork.

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--May 12th, 2000

The Texan A.D.A. slinked into her office and piled on her paperwork. She went to the copier and waited for the machine to perform its magic.

'Another good thing about paperwork, it makes you busy when you need to look busy.'

She peered around for Jack or Nora; there was no sign of them.

'No sign of either one, good. I hope to get the rest of my paperwork done and get out of here. Spent so much time yesterday on it, my hand nearly fell off.'

The copier released her copies and she went on her way back to her office.

'Stop being like this. You're a career woman, Carmichael. If you make friends, it's a small but pleasant bonus. I don't like being so wishy-washy. I'm not normally this way. I better call them soon.'

Abbie passed Jack by.

"Hey. You alright?" He broached her.

"What? Oh, I'm fine."

"You look like you have your head into the clouds." He placed a hand on her shoulder.

'I suppose I do.'

"Sorry, just distracted. It's been a long week."

"I know, Abbie. May I ask what's wrong?"

"Just idle thinking."

"You know what they say about the devil."

Her daze faded. "It's nothing like that."

"Isn't it? Or you worried about Benton, Pierce, Benato or is this from yesterday?"

'I could lie to him.' "Jack, I'd like to get into this but I've got all this paperwork to do and the criminal justice system waits for no woman and her thoughts." 'Great. I just pulled what he did yesterday. Who says the sexes aren't equal? I must thank Benton for that as she proved she can be just as ruthless as men when it comes to the office.'

The E.A.D.A. remained silent for a moment than backed down. "Alright, later then. You owe me." He walked away.

"Oh, we're still on for tomorrow?" He questioned.

Again she created a blank. "Sure."

"Great. I'll let you hack at the paperwork. I got to check on Journalist Shield Laws." He retreated back to his office with her lingering at the hallway.

'That was a good chance to drop tomorrow, wasn't it? Yet I didn't act on it or didn't want to. Is this guilt for him or something else?'

Her hands began to sweat on the copies. 'Right. Back to work.'

She later gazed at the clock while she plugged away in the office. 'I could call them but…it can wait til Monday morning. It wouldn't be right until I tell him first. I just need the right moment and tomorrow should give me a chance to. One thing to look forward to.'

The day ran out, and with her hand developed a facsimile of carpal tunnel syndrome from the paperwork, Abbie went to her apartment to drop her briefcase on the floor and collapse on the bed. Before she fell on the bed, her mind observed the alarm clock on the nightstand next to it.

'6:57. Now that tomorrow is so close, I guess I probably should prepare what to wear. I don't want to be underdressed.'

She sighed as she rummaged through her closet and traipsed to her body mirror. She was first dressed in blue jeans and an indigo T-Shirt.

'Too teenager. I know I'm young, but not that young.'

She then draped herself in a silver silk dress in intricate flower designs, with her breasts accentuated.

'Too fancy. I doubt I'll be at a formal ballroom.'

She then tried a black tank top, with a sleeveless azure denim vest.

'Well, if I get a 10 gallon hat, it would complete the tourist Texas experience wouldn't it? Good thing I brought it with me. Hmm…black skirt with pantyhose or black jeans? I'd wear the skirt except he'll probably guilt me into riding his bike just once. Better safe than sorry; I'll wear the jeans. Besides, if I go to one of his bars in this, I'll probably fit in better.'

She undressed and slipped on white T-Shirt and panties.

'I did enough work to finish on Sunday. Now I got to focus for tomorrow and our…outing. Oh God. I had my chance to get out of this but this is an opportunity I can't miss out on. How often do I meet Jack outside the office? Never.' She laid down on the bed.

'That would be my fault for some of it: I was too busy getting used to my job and New York plus…no, that's just an excuse. I did it because I knew if I interacted beyond professionally with him, I'd fall for his…hazel eyes and those oddly drawing bushy eyebrows, his roman nose, and his salt and pepper hair in addition to his passion and empathy with…if I were near a desk right now, I'd hit my head against it. This pillow will have to do.' She assaulted herself on the head with a pillow.

'Let's review: he's a womanizer, a workaholic, arrogant, in short, a typical man. Yet I know he's deeper than what he appears. I can't run him down. It's too hollow. When did I start this feeling this way? The day I cried in front of him? The day I revealed the rape? The day I met him?' She stared off into the ceiling.

'Is this infatuation? Complete shutdown of my defenses as I don't normally go for the older men? It can't be lo…no, it can't, can it? I don't know. Stop being so maudlin, Carmichael, that won't help you when you have to look at him and tell him"you have to leave before you're compromised not only as a hardass A.D.A. but particularly as a professional woman?" Just be cold and unemotional with him.'

Her mind thought of the possible outcome. 'And then I'll flap my arms and go over the moon.'

She glanced at the alarm next to her bed. It was 7:35.

'It's so early, yet I feel tired. Probably from all that paperwork. Maybe a nap will help.' She closed her eyes and sighed as her breathing became shallow.

'It figures—what I wanted to avoid in the first place is beginning to happen anyway. Thinking about him like this.'

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--May 13th, 2000

The sun peaked through the blinds on her windows and as it rose, her eyes fluttered.

'I should get drapes but I have a D.A.'s salary. The price of justice.'

She numbly opened her eyes and peeked at her alarm clock.

'11:00 A.M.? I'm surprised I didn't overslept. I'll make it. Although with traffic…. Damn it.' She scrambled to her closet to find the ensemble she chose last night.

'Leave to patented New York traffic to screw you and your plans at its convenience.'

She frantically dressed herself, searched for a pair of matching black socks and sneakers, and rushed out the door.

'I probably should call him that I'll be late, shouldn't I?' She contemplated as she about entered the elevator. She returned to her apartment and her minor reflection in the body mirror caught her peripheral vision.

'And I should do my makeup and hair while I'm at it, but I wonder if I should attempt the natural look. To hell with it: I have no time.' She whipped out Jack's note and dialed the number.

"Hello?" Jack's coarse voice responded.

"It's Abbie, I'm just calling to tell you I'll be late because I overslept and possibly traffic."

"Abbie, it won't be the end of the world if you're late, but thanks for the heads up."

She thought a snappish retort but suppressed it. "Yep. I'll see you when I'll see you."

"Take your time. Extra sleep wouldn't hurt me."

"Lucky you." She seeped with venom.

"Ask me that when you get here. Goodbye." He hung up.

"Goodbye."

She walked to the mirror. 'Oh, stop trying to worry about your clothes or your makeup, Carmichael. You're acting like a teenager.'

The Texan A.D.A. locked her door and bolted to the elevator again.

'After all the murderers, rapists, hitmen, and the occasional embezzlers I've faced, it's meeting a co-worker outside of work that is paralyzing me in fear most. I can see why people hate irony.'

She pressed the elevator button. 'That car better get here before I lose my nerve. I could just tell him I've got work. He'll understand. But if I do, what does that say about me? The last thing I need to drop more of my image; I've dropped plenty with him as it was.'

The elevator doors opened as the bell dinged.

Abbie entered the car. 'Guess I'm going down.'

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Many red lights, several gridlocks, the occasional rude driver and the off/on curse words, Abbie arrived at Jack's apartment building and parked her obsidian Jeep Grand Cherokee across the street.

'I'm here. In only…three hours.' She sighed as she walked across. 'It may be the greatest city in the world but you wouldn't think so as you go through it.'

'Here goes.' She pressed the buzzer.

"Yeah?" Jack's voice rang out.

"It's Abbie."

"Only an hour late. The Gods of the Traffic were generous to you today."

She was ready to punch the device. "Yes, they were. I hope you're ready." 'Bet he's donning his infamous smirk already.'

"I am. Meet you in 5."

'This would be an opportunity to see what his place looks like but...no, focus. Don't get too attached.' She deliberated for a minute.

'Maybe when we get back.'

He opened up the door and sized her up. "All you need is a cowboy hat."

"Shut up." She allowed a small smirk to touch her lips and returned the gesture: the E.A.D.A. wore cerulean blue denim, with a fuchsia colored polo shirt and simple mahogany walking shoes.

'Simple but nicely done. Doesn't he have a nice fashion sense?'

"Well I'm here, now what?" Abbie broke the silence.

"Actually, I don't know. I am doing this by the seat of my pants."

"Great."

"I was thinking with a meal since I haven't really eaten. You hungry?"

She tried not to have her stomach rumble. "In my mad rush, I didn't eat breakfast, so sure. You know any places? Just no Chinese."

"I was going to say nothing with ribs." Jack barbed.

She snorted. "Let the rib thing go, Jack. Fine, what then?"

"Well…New York is a big melting pot, bound to find something. I although did hear things from Detective Briscoe about the experimental revival of the famous German restaurant called Luchow's in their old site, where a NYU dorm now lies. Their attempt to acknowledge the old restaurant and the culture it brought to the city. It wouldn't hurt for a change."

"I'd be more up for Greek but it's your idea, so lead on Mac Duff." She ushered him to her SUV.

"Your car is…black." He said blankly.

"Yeah. So?"

"Nothing." The E.A.D.A. tried to avoid her eyes.

"What?"

"Just confirmed a theory or two I had. Of course now I think about it, my bike is less dangerous than that thing."

She unrepentantly chuckled. "No thanks."

"You'll be sorry." The two entered the vehicle. He craned his head to admire the ash colored interior.

"Fancy seats. Power door locks and power windows. I hope this has airbags."

"We have body cladding and seat beats, you'll be fine." She zipped in her seat belt.

"When you're rolling in the air, don't say I didn't warn you." He reached for his.

"Just tell me where to go, crash test dummy."

"Fine." He told the directions to East 14th street to her.

"It figures." She grumbled.

"What?"

"We beat the Germans in both World Wars and they still have the last laugh."

Jack tried not to detonate in a paroxysm of laughter and failed.

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Abbie pulled the SVU up in a parking lot not far from 14th Street, while the hustle and bustle of Union Square and NYU students from their dorms emerged in the near distance.

"Good spot. On a Saturday. I'm impressed." Jack jibed.

"I'm glad to impress you. Let's go." They walked out of the lot and proceeded to cross the street after he pressed the walk sign.

"So what's your theory about my car?" She queried out the blue.

"What theory?" He replied, innocent.

"You said after seeing my car, it "just confirmed a theory or two I had"."

"Can I plead the fifth?" He turned away from her.

"No." The light changed to the walk signal.

"Okay, can it wait till I cross the street first?" The E.A.D.A. maintained a rapid pace.

"Depends. Do you want to eat bugs out of a grill?" She chided in her oozing cynicism, with a disarming smirk.

"Nice thing to say before I eat something called "Sauerbraten"."

"Well?" They reached the other side and kept walking.

"Well…between the black clothes, the overuse of the eyeliner, and possibly your time in Special Victims with that John Munch character, I had my suspicions but now the black SUV, I'm somewhat convinced you're a…what's the fad that the kids are doing these days? Goth."

The calm and collected Texan A.D.A. had her jaw scrap the sidewalk.

"You think I'm…goth?"

"You do have fondness to black and dark colors. And you're wearing black now."

"That's because it looks good on me?" She blinked.

"True, but it's odd to see such a theme in a young A.D.A."

"I could point out you and your age issue with your bike, you know."

Jack mused for a moment. "You could, but thank you for not saying it."

'He's going to pay for that.'

They approached at the restaurant. It snuggled inside a nook and cranny of the building and half the space of the original site while the rest was carved out for the necessities of life of the dorm students—laundry machines and vending machines galore. He opened the door and gestured for her to go first. The ambience had a shadowy air right now to the darken panels. The bar was line to line to liquor, beer, and all alcoholic bottles on the mirror behind the counter.

"It's a drunk's paradise. So why was Lennie here?" Abbie said, bemused.

"It was a date with Rodgers, from the Opera. She heard about it from a friend but she forgot that this place had 32 German beers and wines."

"Lennie must have gone insane."

"He did but he said the Sauerbraten was enough to make forget everything but his own name. Not to mention the menu. Has 200 items on it. He said it was an amazing reproduction; right down to the bottles."

The hostess, a rotund, blond woman, approached them. "Good afternoon, is this your first time at New Luchow's?"

"Yes." He uttered.

'Woman looks like a reject from Hagar the Horrible.'

"Then welcome, here at New Luchow's…" The woman escorted them to a booth while she elaborated on the band, the cultural significance, and the other features of the restaurant. Abbie tuned her out as she was lost in her thoughts.

'Serves me right for not getting to know everyone. The downside, well one of many, of being a workaholic. Then I'm not wasting this chance and just go with the clichés say—"live the day as if it's your last." And I shouldn't have thought that.'

The hostess stopped to show them to their booth.

"Since most Saturdays are quiet despite the fact we're near Union Square and those college students dart back and forth and I don't use many waitresses, so I'll be yours this afternoon. What you will have to drink?" She offered the menus. The two scanned them.

"I'm not driving, so I'll have a Schwarzbier. I'm in the mood for sweet." He ordered.

"Very good, sir and you, ma'am?"

"Well, I am, so bring something light, like a Heineken?"

The hostess gawked at the A.D.A. "Thank you." She stated, in a chilling tone and left.

"Abbie, you don't go to a German bar and order something commercial like that."

"I don't go to bars too often."

He skimmed the menu. "I'd recommend the Bavaria Malt. That has no alcohol."

"Fine." She rolled her eyes.

"I'm having the Sauerbraten. It has meat in it, Abbie." He jested in a taunt. "You?"

"I hope it's really that good because there is nothing else that looks appetizing."

"I figured the steak would get your attention."

The hostess returned with their beers. "One Schwarzbier." She handed a glass, filled to the brim with the opaque ebony colored liquid. "One Heineken." She nearly dumped the bottle on Abbie.

"What will you have?" She focused on Abbie.

"I'll have Sauerbraten. And…hot potato salad with bacon as an appetizer."

The hostess' disposition broke all records in altering her attitude. "Very good, ma'am. And you, sir?"

"The same."

"And I'll take a Bavaria Malt instead of this." Abbie handed back the bottle.

"Then I'll be back with some bread, your appetizers and your drink." She walked away.

"So…you said one theory. What's the other?" Abbie inquired unexpectedly. He was ready to chug his Schwarzbier in one swallow.

"Can I reprise my "plead the fifth" response?"

"No." She evoked her death glare.

"Alright, it certainly shows your "strong woman from Texas" image." He sipped his beer.

"Just because it is a Grand Cherokee?" Her face appeared incredulous.

"I don't see you driving a Taurus."

"That's because it's a weak model."

"Fine, drive a Camaro?" Jack envisioned his Texan A.D.A. riding a Camaro with the lyrics to "My Sharona".

"Bite your tongue."

"I have to admit, I didn't think you had the money for the Laredo class. Or they pay A.D.A.s more than I thought."

"It was used. However, I did get a slightly used one because of my double time with Special Victims. Of course, the fact it was discontinued back in 98, probably helped in price."." She tried to hide her disdain or her embarrassment.

"As much as I hate breaking one of my own rules: no talking business while drinking, but do you miss it? Special Victims, I mean."

"Sometimes but I had to move on but thank the Morris Commission and their quest to save a few dollars by ending the revolving door of A.D.A.s." Abbie again demonstrated her first class cynicism.

"I heard good things about your permanent successor, Alex Cabot. She's harsh, icy, stubborn, and quite the intellect, almost like you."

"Almost?"

The E.A.D.A. had another swallow. "She doesn't have the righteous motivation. She doesn't have something to prove or the visible passion. Despite the fact she's broken rules from time to time."

She almost chortled. "You mean, like you?"

"If you want to put it that way."

"Shoe's on the other foot now." She began to derive her fun from the game.

"Guilty."

"Or maybe I've had some good traits rubbed off on me." She adopted his trademark smirk.

"Don't suck up to me now, Abbie. It doesn't fit you." He charged up the banter.

"Fine, because I can insult plenty like the rest of them." She jabbed.

He had another swig. "My day is complete then, isn't it?"

"I'd say so. So you want to talk more work or…"

"I have a good glass of beer, having a lunch with a friend who I don't talk beyond work very often, and good food on the way, so no, I don't want to talk work." Jack recalled the last time he said his litany, to Lt. Van Buren all those years ago.

'So I'm just a friend to him? That's good. That will make things easier, right?'

"Alright then. I don't know what to talk about instead though."

"You could tell me what's going with you and why you've been in a daze the past two days." The hostess reappeared with their appetizers—potato salad laced with bacon slices, diced and a glass of less dense mahogany liquid, with a head of amber foam—Abbie's Bavaria Malt.

Her fear escalated. "I would but it's work related." She hoped the ruse would stop him and started to eat her salad. "This is pretty good."

"Say no more. I wouldn't mind asking if it's Benton or something else…if I were so inclined." He scooped some salad with his spoon.

"You're such a lawyer, Jack." She observed in her light tone.

"Again, guilty as charged."

"I can't wait for Benton to say that."

"In time, Abbie, in time."

"Since you were probing me about her, you could finish what you said yesterday."

"What?"

The A.D.A. leaned over to her boss with her trapping grin on her face. "The part when you 'figured to ask what happened with Benton, among other things.'"

He almost choked. "Oh, right."

"So…"

"Too bad I don't have any other appointments to wiggle my way out of this, don't I?"

"No, I have you where I want you, although I didn't factor a German restaurant backdrop," she joked.

"I would bribe but I have an E.A.D.A.'s salary."

"You're stalling, Jack." She leaned back and had some more potato salad.

He sighed and had another swig. "Alright, I guess I was…worried."

"Worried." She was about to choke. "About what?"

"You seemed like you had a lot of your mind, looking rather troubled." He tried to obscure his subsequent blush by his eating.

She seemed touched. "I suppose I am. Or was. Just something I need to figure out."

"Anything an old sympathetic ear could help with?"

She had a breathless laugh. "Well, it's work but right now, this is more my own problem. I need to solve it myself but thanks."

"I'm not going anywhere, Abbie."

Abbie nearly gagged on her hypocrisy and her swallow of the malt. "I know and thank you again. But let's finish this before it gets cold."

He refrained from raising his eyebrow and consumed his salad as she did hers. They finished in silence and she felt his eyes on her.

'I didn't think he'd be this compassionate. Damn him. Just wait until the meal is over. I need to stall now.' "Since we got together because we don't know much of each other, we could always tell each other things we've never told the other." The Texan A.D.A. hoped her tactic would work.

"You sound like a 16 year old."

"Not like we're allowed to be young and/or child like on occasion. The defendants are allowed to, but not the likes of us."

Jack's mind devised with that statement. "Very true. Alright, fine, ladies first then."

She had a sigh of internal relief. "Typical gentleman. Do you have any kids?"

"One, a daughter."

"Is she young or she…"

"She's fully grown. She's busy with college just as I'm busy with work."

Abbie fantasized about his daughter's appearance, including the infamous eyebrows and nose. "The workaholic genes strike again. Your turn."

He scrutinized her appearance. "Speaking of genes, you certainly have a different skin tone than most of the A.D.A.s I've come across. What's that mix from?"

"I'm sure against all those pale people. Dad is Native American Cherokee ancestry and Mom is of Greek descent. And shut up with the SUV jokes."

"What? I wasn't going to say anything." He smiled, inoffensively. She satisfied herself with her salad while he still lingered with his.

"That was good. My turn. Were you born and raised in New York?"

"No, my parents lived in Chicago where my old man lived his beat as a cop for 23 years. So I went to University of Chicago, but I got my degree from NYU."

"Never would have guessed; you fit so seamlessly here."

"My turn. Why do you always want to be Abbie? Not Abigail?"

She performed the motion of sticking her finger down her throat. "I hate being so formal. Makes me sound like a frigid schoolmarm."

"That's some image to choke down."

"Isn't it? Okay, why are you called Jack when your birth name is John?" She wouldn't let up her genial banter.

"That's an old story, been so long since I last told it. My mother named me John, to make me more "special" than the other Irish children but my father didn't want that and wanted me to fit in with the other kids and he wanted to keep up appearances with the other Irish families in the neighborhood so he said "I'm calling you, Jack."."

"That's pathetic. So why keep it when you came to New York?"

"I was still talking to my dad at that point, so I figured to keep it to make him happy and it just stuck with me."

Abbie was dumbfounded. "Has anyone else asked that?"

"Some on and off over the years. Not recently though, I rather make it obvious in introductions. My turn. Since we're talking parents, why did your mother wanted you to marry a doctor?"

"Prestige. Her daughter is already climbing the ropes professionally, so why not marry a doctor and live vicariously with every woman's dream?"

"Your father isn't a doctor, is he?"

"No. Well, he was in proximity of doctors, as he worked in a hospital info network but other than that…."

"Close enough for jazz. Here she comes."

The hostess disrupted the conversation with their main course: the Sauerbraten, a plate of steak, covered by a congealing red wine vinegar marinade with three dumplings and two apple slices on the side.

"Thank you." They both replied.

"Call me if you need anything." She left the two so they can engage into their meal.

"Your turn, Abbie." He began to carve up the steak.

"Since we're talking childhoods, I wouldn't mind knowing a little more about it. I know your dad was a cop but that's rather it." She bit into one of the dumplings.

The E.A.D.A. inhaled in a harsh breath. "It's been a while since I told that story."

She became aware of her error. "I'm sorry, I should have waited."

"I never said that but it's not an easy subject." He remembered the last time he spoke of his father was to that barfly, Mike, on that cold night in what felt like an eternity since.

"Sorry, forget I brought it up."

"No, no. I said it to someone who I never met before, so I think telling it again to someone whom I've known for quite a while won't hurt anything." She in turn smiled softly before she completed her dumplings.

He swallowed a piece of steak before he began his monologue. "Besides what I said with him as a cop, I lived a competitive streak as a kind, thanks to my old man. I remember nights practicing darts in the basement and my dad later took me to bars and said a "10 bucks to anyone who could beat my kid." Needless to say, my father didn't have to dime that out."

"Now I know never to play darts with you. Just as well, as I'd end up throwing it into someone's eye." She cut into her steak and nibbled on her slice.

"With the exception of bars, my father wasn't a man to go out anywhere. He always enjoyed my mother's corned beef and red cabbage. He could lap that up anytime, anywhere. My mother didn't mind it, except for…those times where she locked herself up in our basement." He had a long drink of his Schwarzbier and finished it off.

'Oh, God. That would mean…'

"He abused her." His companion said in a low, stunned voice. He said nothing but craned his head to his food; he couldn't bear to see himself in her passionate eyes.

"Did he…?" She wondered, afraid of the answer.

"You can figure out the rest, yourself."

"That explains some things."

He perked up by that. "What do you mean?"

"You know how…motivated I am with rape cases, you seem to be with child abuse but I thought that was just indignation."

"Now you know." He devoured another slice of the steak.

"Thank you for telling me."

"Well, you told me yours years ago, thought I'd owe you." Jack winked.

'Would that be true or the reverse?' "I wouldn't go that far."

"I would."

She scoffed as she incised her apple slices. "You're too kind."

He chewed another slice of his steak. "Careful or you'll ruin my reputation."

"Same to you. Since you never speak about him, I am wondering what your relationship with him is. You live with him, moved out, died…?"

"The last part. He died, of cancer, in 1986. The only thing I focus on was his hands. He had these thick, huge hands. He used to pick me up with them when I was a kid and used them with my mother as you now know but seeing those hands with tubes running in and out, it was quite the eyeopener."

The A.D.A. gazed intently at him, while intermittently ingesting her apple slices and steak. "Do you feel you'll ever be free of him?"

"I used to think that, but there are days when I'm not sure. I guess because of the work I do."

"You mean the child abusers?"

"That and my own job. I always wanted to be a cop with a beat, like him, but he wanted something higher for his firstborn. He made me be a lawyer."

She about choked again. "Whoa."

"I remember the day of my graduation and he took me aside and said "Jack, my boy, someday we're going to make judge.""

Abbie snickered. "Judge Jack McCoy. I would pay to see that."

"Maybe. I believe it's my turn. This is rather good." His steak finally vanquished and diverted to the dumplings next.

"I'll say. I'll have to thank Lennie for suggesting it." She concurred.

"I will. I think we talked enough work for a while. Do you miss Dallas?"

"I would if I wasn't so busy with New York's problems. You miss Chicago?" Abbie had a large swallow of her Malt.

"Not really. New York is my home. My last question for this for the moment is "what's the one thing you've wanted to do since you've been in New York?""

She eaten the apple slices and drank her Malt. "See the sights of New York or do something that says "I've done something New York." You?"

His dumplings were almost the way of his steak. "I always wanted to go to Coney Island but I never had time or occasionally the desire to go."

"You think you ever will?" She put down her fork and knife after she gobbled her last steak and apple slices.

He turned to the apple slices now. "I don't know, been so long since I thought about it." He now had a cogitative face as he slowly ate. She in turn eyeballed at his face. "What?"

She smirked. "That's your scheming face. You're thinking something."

"Just fermenting something." He said, low-key.

'Could he be any more obvious?' "Yeah, you do that, I'll get the check."

"No, I can get it."

She shook her head. "I'm not in the mood for the chivalrous "man has to pay" approach."

"You turning into a feminist on me, Abbie?" He cracked.

"No. Just don't want to fall into stereotypes. Unless you want to share the bill."

"Fine." The apple slices were all gone and he placed the fork and knife on the plate.

"Aren't you agreeable with this? I was predicting a possible argument." She bantered.

He was pensive for a moment. "Let's just say, I've faced this before." He subdued down thoughts of Claire Kincaid's patented brand of feminism.

"I'll take your word for it. Now what, Jack?"

"Well, we did lunch; do you want to end it or keep going?"

The Texan A.D.A. traced her finger on the rim of her glass. 'I could end this now, as we've gone through the paces but…I am enjoying this.' "I am just fine. You have any ideas?"

"I do actually. You gave me the idea but first things first." He requested the check from the hostess and the pair paid with a substantial tip.

"I hope we see you again. Tell all your friends." The hostess called out as they exited the restaurant.

"Pretty good attitude for someone who tried to dump a beer bottle on my lap."

"You got to roll with the punches, Abbie." They walked from whence they came.

"Easy for you to say. I think she was sweet for you. Or just didn't like me. No wonder that place is going out of business."

"You just need to learn the rules of the bar."

"You make me sound as if I'm new to them. I've been to bars before." She said, withholding her defensiveness.

"You are but you haven't sampled them like I have."

"Jack, you make them sound like a French wine."

"Maybe they are. Full of boutique, texture, individuality, a good bar is like a good…" He cracked an odd grin in his monologue.

"Please don't say "a woman."" She groaned.

"But I'm right." His smirk intensified as he strutted.

'He's so impossible.' "So what's your idea? As if I couldn't guess. At Coney Island."

"So much for keeping it a surprise."

"It might have been if I didn't know you so well."

Jack suffocated on the irony. "I'll just have to try harder. So you want to?"

'What's that phrase? In for a penny?' "Well, it's been years since I tried an amusement park, so why not. Is this part of the "things I always wanted to do but couldn't"?"

"Somewhat. I was thinking with an ulterior motive actually."

Her curiosity spiked. "Really? Such as?"

"Now that would be telling." Now he was in the driver's seat and enjoyed her twisting and writhing.

"Oh, come on."

"I'll tell you later. Are you coming?" The walking sign turned white for the twosome to cross.

'What is it about this man that compels me to him? Charm? His demeanor? His…I'm doing it again. I'm just sinking deeper into this and into him, aren't I?' "Yeah. I'm going."

'Would you like a shovel to go with the giant hole you're digging, Carmichael?' She chided to herself as they came to the parking lot.

------------------------------------------------------

After an hour of misguided directions, and the typical psychotic drivers, the lawyers arrived at another parking lot not far from Coney Island's Stillwell Avenue.

"Stupid Belt Parkway." Abbie grumbled as they locked up the truck.

"Sorry. Guess we should have taken the Culver Line. I should have added that I wasn't sure of some of the directions, shouldn't I?" Jack said, shamefacedly.

"It would have been helpful. Forget it. Let's go." 'Damn that look of his.'

Out of the parking lot, they walked along on the sidewalk heading to the amusement park with the sounds of the B-train as the subway roved on, assimilating into the hustle and bustle of the busy street. Kids and teenagers zipped past them in their exuberance.

"I can't wait to ride the Cyclone!" One of them exclaimed.

"I hope you're up for a rollercoaster, Abbie. I think I heard some say it's the world's best wooden roller coaster."

"Wooden? I don't know." She couldn't veil her panic.

"Oh, come on, what did we say about doing "things I always wanted to do but couldn't"?"

"Turn it back on me. That's real mature. And I hate you because you're right." She fumed.

"You'll see."

The couple sunk deeper in the ominous sea of humanity before them. On Surf Avenue, coolers, picnic baskets and lawn chairs stretched as far as the eye could see. He caught the nearly sky high saffron sign of "Nathan's Famous Frankfurters."

He stopped in his tracks. "What?" she asked.

"I remember some of the other lawyers who went here said they had to get a hot dog from Nathan's as it's a Coney Island tradition."

"Haven't we eaten enough?" she ragged on him.

"I suppose we can put it off," he replied, dejectedly.

"Are you going to pout?"

"No."

"What's a little more indigestion?" She slipped into the restaurant and reappeared with two hot dogs and two Cokes. "This feels the life almost, doesn't it?" He thought out loud.

"What?"

"Saturday afternoon, eating one of the best hot dogs, going to Coney Island, with you, it's kinda idyllic in its own way."

Emotions sluiced within her. "It is."

They consumed as they headed to the admission booths and paid their tickets.

"Wish we did this during the week, and pay one price instead of pay as you go but what bursts of insights don't come with schedules of convenience." Jack finished his hot dog.

"Jack, it's 4:30, on a Saturday, I'm not in the mood for depth." 'At least for now.' She pondered, nearly forlorn as she joined him.

He polished yet another grin as he dumped their hot dog wrappers and soda cups into a garbage collector. "Sold. Ready for the Cyclone?"

Screams emanated from the rattling structure as the trains navigated the coaster's second fan turn. The couple paid their tickets and Abbie saw in her peripheral vision Jack smiling as they entered the station, waiting for the trains.

"What are you smiling at?"

"Look there." He pointed by a patch of flora by the first turn out of the station to the form of several quaint bushes, flowers, and a sapling.

"I don't get it."

"I don't know. Just seeing the serene picture of nature growing within the structure of one of the most infamous terror-inducing machines on the planet appeals to my sense of irony."

"Most infamous terror-inducing machine? I suddenly feel sick." She masked the gesture of nausea.

"Ride it out, Abbie. You don't want people to know you wimped out the Cyclone, do you? No New Yorker will respect you again."

She was flabbergasted. "You wouldn't."

"Can you take that risk? You're the one with the image."

"So do you."

"Yes, but I can say I rode on the Cyclone." He almost cackled in amusement.

"Damn you, Jack. Fine." She folded her arms defensively. "How do you know of the Cyclone? You said you never went here."

"I didn't but I've lived in New York for so long, I hear just about every local legend imaginable."

The A.D.A. avoided seething too visibly. The train arrived and the pair boarded the second-to-last seat, the lap bars clicked shut, the skid brakes were lowered and the train thundered onto the lift.

'I just hope I don't shriek like a girl.'

She felt around the car and sensed the bending flexibility.

"Jack…this car is loose."

"I know. Remember," He shouted out over the cacophonous gears. "The cars are flexible, so don't panic."

Her fear and horror had the composed A.D.A. in their clutches. "Now you tell me."

The E.A.D.A. had little time to reassure his assistant as the first drop wrenched the trains out from under them and the Cyclone proceeded to throw the lawyers around like rag dolls to much to Jack's amusement and Abbie's chagrin.

'I will not scream like a girl, I will not scream like a girl. Or maybe I should say "Our father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…." Oh, the hell with it, I'm going to die.'

She emitted the highest pitch squeal she could muster.

When the brakes hit both the elite lawyers appeared and felt disheveled. "Hard to believe a coaster less than 100 feet could do that, eh?" He finally said.

"I thought I was going to die." Her heart beat like a drum. "That was the longest two minutes of my life."

"No, you weren't and no, it wasn't."

"Would you care to ride again? 4 more dollars." The operator inquired.

Jack had a twinkle in his eye. Abbie glared him down.

"No." She dragged him away from the platform.

"Killjoy."

"I'll let you know as soon as my pulse catches up to me." She searched for a beach and nearly collapsed.

"Your heart didn't give out when you shrieked like a girl." He gently admonished.

"Don't you…go there." Her heartbeat slowly regulated itself.

"Just think of all the blackmail material I now have."

"You'll pay for this." She moaned. "I think I'll be okay. Just a few more minutes."

"You want to ride the Power Surge? I also heard…"

"No, I know better than that with a name like that. Pass. I don't want to elevate off the ground for a while."

"Okay. We could go by the Break Dance as that's a flat ride. It would be a nice compliment to our German lunch." He chirped.

"Which will soon be re-complimented if you keep that up. Not to mention that Coney Island tradition." She used every measure of control she had to suppress the rising contents of her lunch.

"Sorry. But it should be smoother than the Cyclone."

"Give me a while, you go ahead."

"I can wait." He sat besides her. "You want a soda to combat your sick stomach?"

She would be more touched by the gesture if heaving her intestines out wasn't on the top of her list. They loitered for a few more minutes.

"Alright. Sorry. Roller coasters aren't my thing." She said almost apologetic as he guided her to the Break Dance. A bright collection of sunset images collected in a backdrop with a rotating set of interconnected aero plane styled cars.

"Don't worry, they're not mine either but after driving a motorcycle, you get the idea."

They went into line as the music on the loudspeakers blared on. "At least my headache from this will distract my stomachache."

"Relax. I hear this ride is quite typical of the German fair: big, loud, and flashy. If the thumping of the music does not get you the screams from the ride will."

"A machine that is obnoxiously daring you to get on and putting your life in its hands. Just what I'd want to bet my life on."

She couldn't help but board with a knot in her stomach. Once they paid and everyone was loaded and strapped on, the operator spun them a bit and said, and "Does anyone want to get off?" The A.D.A tempted to raise her hand when one kid jokingly beat her to it and the operator said in a menacing tone, "Honey, you are going to regret fooling around."

'Oh, what have I done…again?'

The operator clicked the switch and the machine dazzled in a rapid choreography of dips and dashes as the turntable and hub increased at various speeds. To Abbie, everything became a blur.

'I think my brain is going to jump out of my skull…Why do his eyes have to be so hypnotic?'

The ride stopped and Abbie stumbled out and nearly collapsed when Jack caught her in time.

"You okay?"

Her mind eventually realized where she was and why was she feeling such strong but gentle arms around her.

"Oh, I'm…fine now." She couldn't stop her blush in time. She looked away and stood up on her feet. 'What the hell was that?'

"That was quite a ride. I never felt so tired, dizzy, wobbly, yet begging for more. What about you? Was it too much? I don't recall country fair rides pulling that off." He spouted out in an explosion of giggling as they wobbled off.

"It was something alright." She felt the warmth of his arms around her. 'Is this rush him or the ride? I feel like I'm in a harlequin novel. Except for the occasional urge to vomit.'

She quivered. "Too much?" He positioned his hands on her shoulders.

'There is that feeling again.' "No, but I'll get back to you on that."

"Alright, you want to do one more ride and then break?"

"Do I have a choice?" She swore he gripped a little tighter.

"You already have a choice but thank you for egging me to try something new."

"Careful, Jack, or I'll have plenty of blackmail material too." She finally had the urge to crack a grin.

"Then we're even."

She relaxed her muscles and couldn't help but stare into his deep tawny eyes. "How about we just walk around for a while?"

He finally let her go. "Sure."

"So was your ulterior motive?" She cut into the silence as they meandered around.

"What?"

"You said you had an ulterior motive besides just coming here for the hell of it. What is it?"

He hesitated for a moment before speaking. "It was something you said back at Luchow's. You said "we're not allowed to be young or child like." I never realized how true that was until now. Made me wonder what we are since we couldn't be that."

The words submerged in her. "I was just saying it as a matter of fact but I never really thought about it until you said it just now."

"You know the jokes: lawyers aren't human, aren't meant to be human. I never knew why until now. We're supposed to lead a better example and prove we're not like all these people as they're so blissfully ignorant. We're supposed to be "enlightened.""

"At times it feels like I feel enlightened through my teeth, to paraphrase Lennie." Her pessimism revived.

"It's certainly feeling that way with the judicial activism and the defense lawyers and no one wanting to take their responsibility. Lines keep getting blurred."

"Not to mention the Johnnie Cochrans of the world who will twist anything as part of their fee." She jeered.

"That too. Weren't for the game and the competition, I'm sure more prosecutors would quit." Memories of this type of conversation with Claire bubbled itself to the surface. "So I figured to play a different game as the two of us certainly deserve to take a break being lawyers and adults and be like children at one of the few places where adults can be like children—an amusement park. Since we do have to be refined all the time?"

Her apprehension softened away. "I can't argue with that but no more roller coasters or major motion sickness."

"Deal."

Sauntering past several pedestrians to the Eldorado Auto Skooter hall, another automated loudspeaker exclaimed out to everyone if they wanted to "Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off!"

"That's a tradition you should have no matter what amusement park you're in: bumper cars. If you don't want to, we don't have to. I don't want you sick. I'm quite happy just walking with you." Jack chimed in.

She craned her head to that the marigold lettering mixed with an onyx background sign, showing a donkey's posterior combined the loudspeaker's inscribed mantra.

'Walk with him or attempt to have fun or both? The one good indecision I had all day.' "All I can say is, you better watch out for me." She winked back to him as she headed to the hall and Jack simply shook his head in response.

The duo, once seated in separately colored cars (Jack in emerald, and Abbie in ruby), drove on while the hall blared on teen pop songs. Jack plowed through several kids and teenagers. He almost felt an iota of guilt for them until Abbie smashed into him and his car slammed into the wall.

"Dirty pool!" He cried out.

"It's what bumper cars do. It serves you right anyway from that assistant crack a few days ago. Deal with it." She crowed on as she drove. He pushed the petal and bumped his car into hers.

"Take that!"

"Oh yeah!" She swerved around to counter when one of Jack's victims battered both lawyers.

"You shouldn't have turned your back on me!" The child giggled as she passed through.

"I'd say you got what you deserve, Jack." The A.D.A. swirled around before gaining control of her steering wheel. Meanwhile, Jack grabbed his steeling wheel and rammed her car.

"So did you!"

She regained control and stomped on the petal. "You want this, huh? I'll be happy to give it to you!" They collided but their respective revenges would have to wait as time limit was activated.

"I'm sorry, folks, but it's time for go, but if you want a re-ride, it only costs a dollar." The operator reminded. The E.A.D.A. glanced at his assistant.

"Rematch?" He said in his cockiest voice.

"Just try to stop me." Her voice matched his.

They ignored all but each other as they targeted one another while laughing and grinning all the way. "So that's bumper cars. I never realized how much fun they are." Abbie noted as they went through the egress and walked on.

"Don't worry, I didn't know it either but what is an amusement park without them?"

"So now what?" Her tone considerably brightened up.

"Aren't you the chipper one?"

"An amusement park isn't the best place to be a cynic. Besides, I'm having fun—as you said, I can't be a lawyer all the time. I've been…too much of that lately."

He arched his legendary eyebrows. "What makes you say that?"

'Damn. I've been through so much with him today; I know he doesn't deserve being put off by me anymore. I feel guilty enough as it is.' "I've been burying myself in work. Using the distraction to put something that's been bothering me for a while now."

"Which has kept you in a daze for several days." She was aware of his closeness to her.

"Can it wait until after we have some fun? I don't want to ruin this new high." She sounded like a child.

"Sure. What do you want to do next?" He replied in his smoothing tone.

Her ears arrived to attention. "Since we're on this child kick, we should focus on another amusement park tradition, you up for a carousel?" She darted to the direction of the copyrighted carousel song.

"Youth." He sighed as he marched on.

She waited for him as she watched the carousel—a small intimate building with the carousel itself embedded right inside while the fourth wall is a plastered opening, inviting all inside.

"Why is youth is wasted on the young?" Jack said as he breathed heavily briefly before her.

"Because the old know how much they threw it away?"

"Ha. Ha." He responded in a deadpan. She waved her hand dismissively.

"Come on."

They entered the line and discerned the rapid rotations of the carousel. The carved horses racing lifelike against the rainbow colors of their own designs, the intricately painted mountain murals, the gleaming mirrors, and the vibrantly colored structures lodged around the epicenter of the machine itself all the while with the famous tune from the popular Gebruder organ.

"That's pretty fast." The A.D.A. was hypnotized by the motions.

"Supposed to be one of the fastest in the world." The operator intervened.

"We'll see and thank you, Mike." He read the man's nametag.

Soon the machine stopped and let the next batch of people on. Jack went by the edge and climbed on an ivory horse with azure straps, a goldenrod saddle, and black indentations all over the horse, particularly a crescent half moon on the left of its hindquarters. Abbie climbed next to him on a tan colored horse with russet straps and a crimson saddle.

"Can I swap with you?" She pled, in an awkward tone.

"Why?"

"I do rather stick out with it, if you haven't noticed."

"No. I like this horse. I feel a connection with this horse." He bragged like a child rediscovering an old toy.

"If you keep that up, I don't think you'll like where I might insert that pole."

"Whatever happened to "an amusement park isn't the best place to be a cynic"?"

"Doesn't mean I have to drop it completely either." She served back the salvo. He just chuckled ruefully as the ride commenced. The speed amplified in perfect sync to the organ music. She was on the edge of her saddle, clutched on the brass pole for almost dear life.

"Wow! I never knew they were this fast!" Her observation drowned by the noises around her.

"The one of the fastest in the world."

The horses' pacing also augmented and the riders had a sense of gliding as their "animals" nearly became alive and tried to outrace the other.

"I never knew a carousel could be this intense." She burst in a flare-up of amazement and delight.

"I heard about this as well. I just find it funny that I didn't suggest this."

Soon the tune petered out and the ride slowly ceased action and the twosome nearly collapsed from the intensity of the ride.

"Wow. My legs are shaking slightly. I need to stop getting so wobbly." The Southern A.D.A. braced herself on the horse as she climbed down.

"You just need to get your sea legs. In fact, I'll join you." He nearly fainted on her; he clasped the pole in time.

"Isn't the girl supposed to swoon in the guy's arms, not the other way around?" She simpered as she propped him up.

"I guess the traditions are out the window today. I hear once in a while they'll let you literally grab a brass ring." He beamed as he swaggered off.

"I could make so many "brass ones" jokes." She followed suit.

"Enjoyed your ride, folks?" The operator named Mike called out to the pair.

They turned around. "We did, thank you." Abbie spoke out.

"You come back, you hear?" He said in one of the friendliest tones either lawyer ever heard uttered.

"We'll certainly try. Thank you." Jack spliced in as they hobbled off.

"Now what, Mac Duff?" She wondered.

"You want a nice safe ride? We could ride the Wonder Wheel." The E.A.D.A. pointed the ominous Ferris wheel in the background.

"A Ferris wheel?" 'Just him and me all alone up there…I don't know.' "I don't know. Hasn't exactly been our style today." She said in trepidation.

"Abbie, you've been wanting a nice safe ride all day, you finally have it. Don't tell me those other rides are making you addicted." He jovially chided.

"No, no, just a little bit tired."

"Your stomach should be better by now."

"I'm okay. It's just been quite a day." She slackened her muscles off into a slump.

"Well, we don't have to but I figured it could be a good chance to talk. Shoot the breeze or…what's been bothering you lately." He peered down bashfully and scuffed his shoes like a schoolboy.

'I think I can stall him, delay him, and evade the issues and just make up something. But the more that goes on, I wonder just how much can I keep this up? I've never had so much…fun on a single day by myself or anyone else and it's because of him. All those suspicions are being too confirmed left and right; how much longer can it go on?'

"Well…I wouldn't mind returning to our conversation of getting to know each other, and… yes, the Ferris wheel will give some time to do that. It's a big wheel." She appeared bashful and scraped her shoes herself.

"Okay." Jack guided her to the line for the Wonder Wheel Park. After 20 minutes of waiting, the duo finally arrived, passing the industrial door and admired the unusually built sapphire with interlaced scarlet mechanism with the effervescent cars swinging within the wheel itself.

"I thought that line would go on forever." She griped as they entered the craft, sitting across from each other.

"It is the longest of the day so far, so I wouldn't worry that much."

"Yeah." The wheel activated.

"So where do you want to start or shall I?" He melted into the seat of the Wheel.

"Where did we leave off?" The car then swayed back and forth. "I didn't think a Ferris wheel could do that." She suddenly brought to mind her shrieks from the Cyclone as the car swung downward in its second swing.

"It's a special kind of Ferris Wheel. And we last talked about what we've always wanted to do in New York. So now what?"

"I'm not sure." She chuckled mirthlessly. "The whole day has been a thing of firsts for me. I don't usually meet a co-worker for lunches in German restaurants and go to amusement parks just for the hell of it."

"Don't worry. I'm surprised too. I don't find this standard operation procedure either. You're the first I've done this at all with." He noted the fading sunlight cascading on her.

'I'm the first? Why? What could that mean? If I go with it, I don't know what will happen next. So why I do feel hopeful all of a sudden?' "I guess it's the tradeoff of having a career—no time for making friends." Her hopes mounted slowly but steadily.

"Sometimes that's overrated, sometimes it's not."

"And what would all this with me be?" She probed. The car maintained its undulating pitch as it rocked back and forth sporadically. "Still getting used to that."

He furnished her a soft grin to ease her. "This is I would call...the most fun I had in a long time. Like you, I'm usually so busy; don't have time for such indulgence."

"I am having fun too. What made you try it today?" Her seriousness shined through.

His eyes moseyed to her and then to the park scene. "After all these years working together, I thought it was time to bridge some gaps and to finally settle some old scores of my own."

"I am sorry about the gaps. It's the mindset I got from home: work, work, and more work. It makes me a great A.D.A. but as an actual human being…"

"Hey, don't sell yourself short when you're at work. If you weren't human, then you wouldn't have cried when Toni Ricci died. If you weren't human, you wouldn't be able to guide S.V.U.'s baby steps to what it is today. If you weren't human…you wouldn't have told me about the real reasons behind pushing to nail Alice Simonetti, right?"

The emotions slowly consumed her as was his empathy. "I know, but that's mixing the personal with the business. It's not the same."

"I know, but then I don't exactly want to regurgitate more "lawyers as inhuman" jokes. We both get it."

"Yeah. No one ever preps you for this part of the job—can't make friends in because of possible conflicts of interest and out of the job; you have no time to try with all the late nights."

"You wonder why bother and you end meeting a lot of great people anyway regardless. My case, I did while juggling work. Present company included."

She faintly smiled at that. "I'm sure you have as you've been at it for so long. I'm not implying an age joke or anything." 'Oh, no…'

"You don't have to. I know I'm old." He retorted lightly.

"I'd like to think of you as more…middle aged?" 'I'll just jump out the car now.'

"Stop it, Abbie. Before you put an entire shoe store in your mouth."

"Right." If not leaping out of the car, she wished the sun's rays would be more concentrated on her and burn the A.D.A. down like a magnifying glass to an ant.

"Don't worry about it. After all, it's supposed to be a day of relaxation."

"I wonder if Nora would take to the fact what we've done today." 'Blaming Nora. That's always a good diversion.'

He stretched out against the cushion. "I'd think nothing. She seems so…"

"Liberal?"

"Abbie…"

"Sorry, couldn't resist." She finally rested against the cushion.

"What do you want to do after this? The day is winding down."

The car hit its peak at the topmost of the wheel. She closed her eyes and felt the sun's rays touch her skin. "I'm not sure."

"We're close to the beach, so we could hit "Sideshows of the Shore" but I don't think we need to see some carnival freaks to make ourselves better, do we?"

"No. We have all the defendants we've faced to do that."

Jack guffawed as he pushed himself deeper against the seat. "Nathanson was right: anyone tell you how funny you are?"

"No. Usually people don't take to cynical humor."

"I do. I always have from you. I rather like your wit. There are times when you spar with the defendants and give a good insult and I just want to grin from ear to ear."

'He likes my wit.' Her mindset became one of a giggling schoolgirl. "Thank you. One of my lovelier defense mechanisms, although you're funny when you want to be too."

"It's harder when you're the Executive A.D.A. and have to set a better example." He said in a snobbish voice.

"I think you're doing the D.A. and New York County proud."

"Thank heaven for small favors." They shared a smile.

"Since we rather deviated from that, we probably should return to the original point of the conversation, shouldn't we?" Abbie straighten up and dampened her good cheer.

"Maybe. I didn't know we had a point." The E.A.D.A. shot off another nonchalant grin.

"Do you ever worry about meeting up with those friends in court and end up competing against them, like Danielle Melnick? I know you two have something going on there."

"No, because we know not to make it personal. The various other lawyer friends I have know that, except for one."

"Who?" She inclined over. The car shifted back again as it was heading to the platform.

"I'd go on but the ride is ending. What do you want to do? Ladies' choice."

"I want to continue this. Let's go somewhere private. Like the beach?" 'I won't have to worry about anything romantic, not if we keep talking about this. However, with the sunset and being alone with each other, I don't know what will happen. Maybe I should just stop thinking.'

"Sure."

The duo departed the car and ambled to the beach. They took off their shoes and socks, gripped them loosely and reached enough distance from the park and from any beachcombers. The sun slowly dipping, it would be quite the romantic backdrop, except for the woman of the pair's sheer anxiety.

"You were saying?" Her attention was to the ocean rather than her cohort. Had she turned her head, she would have realized he followed suit.

"It's been a while since I thought about him or said this to anyone. His name is Mark Paul Kopell. I met him in law school; it's been 20 some years. We were all the game and winning at all costs. The motivation of effective prosecutors. We clashed in late 94 when there was a murdered former juror at Vincent Dosso's trial. You know, the Dandy Don? The investigation found out that the man was bribed to throw the trial and Paul was behind it."

"A co-conspirator? Like Shargel with Gotti?"

"Yeah. He ended up representing himself and proving the effectiveness of the adversarial system and I…won. Sometimes, it's easier being alone and not be dragged by the silly things—friendships. But I handled it well enough considering." He said with difficulty, feeling his façade being undone.

"I can imagine how painful that was." She commented in a considerate voice.

"It's not something I like to broadcast." He narrowed his eyes as the emotions undulated within him.

"So why tell me?"

He sighed. "Because it's not worth going to the grave over and frankly, it would be nice for someone who would appreciate the ugly truth to know it. You're that."

"You make me sound so special." She laughed nervously.

"I wouldn't deny it."

"You wouldn't?"

"I don't know, Abbie. It's been so long since I've known someone like you—someone like myself. I'm so used to differing people. It's part of the job. Before I met you, I was so used to having disagreements left and right from your two predecessors. Then you came along and I didn't know how to act." His demeanor brightened as the truth sunk in.

"Is that why you played Devil's Advocate on occasion?" She prodded as her humor cloaked the maelstrom inside her.

"On occasion. So now you know."

"I can't say I don't think the same. There is something here, Jack, it prompts me to gravitate to you and I didn't know how until you said it: we are similar."

"I wasn't sure either but I've been thinking it for several months now, since Jamie returned. Made me rethink some things. Okay, a lot of things." The sun lowered down further as he deepened his ruminative complexity.

"You're not alone; I've been thinking a lot of things too." 'Is this the eye before the storm? I don't know.'

"I know. I've seen you do that all day. You think you can finally tell me what has been bothering you lately?" He bore at her with his concerned voice.

She froze. "I want to but I'm not ready to admit to myself yet."

"Alright, but I think you're stalling."

"I guess I am. Either way, it's quite the place for a possible confession. On a beach, the sunset, the water going back and forth…"

"You chose the place, Abbie." He sliced through her stalling.

"I figured privacy was the better course of action. I forgot how romantic the backdrop looks to be. Not that it would matter here." She shrunk down.

"No. But it does make for good atmosphere. Or a cheap movie. The guy and the girl meet and they look at each other's eyes and they kiss. She bends her leg up and then the movie ends." He ridiculed flippantly.

"You sound like you've seen your share of them."

"I've been in a few." He shrugged.

'There it is, the opportunity to know how he conducts himself in his relationships. But once I know, then I'll have to make my decision, won't I?' "What were they like?"

He glanced at her in astonishment. "No one usually asks me that. Just usually if they end."

"You do have the rep on you, Jack. The same with your assistants."

"I'm not apologizing for the fact I find my co-workers more attractive than women I meet at the gym." It wasn't the first time he used that line as he said it to Claire Kincaid when he first met her.

"You go to a gym?" She tittered.

"You get the idea."

"I'm surprised you haven't made a pass on me yet."

"After Claire and her…death, I figured not to do that anymore. As tempted I might be."

'Tempted?' "You want to elaborate on that?"

"I will if you care to tell me what's been bothering you." He eyed her directly. "If I haven't proven my concern for you by now, I'm sorry, but the mystery girl image isn't something I'm into." The E.A.D.A.'s pitch approached righteous indignation.

"I don't like it, but this isn't something I've experienced before. I don't know how to put it," she replied in mild defensiveness.

"You can try but I won't hold anything against you, you know that, right?" His tone altered to one of compassion.

'Damn him and his compassion.' "I know. Why do you have to be so…caring at times?" Abbie raged in frustration.

"You know why. I think it's called 'being human.'"

"Yeah." She spat.

"If the day is of any indication, you're doing a lovely job of it." He sustained his empathetic voice.

She relaxed for the moment. "Just don't spread it around."

"It's me, 'Hang Em High McCoy', remember? I wouldn't worry, as I've got that image to maintain."

"I'm not. I understand image is getting to be so overrated these days." She sensed his concerned eyes on her. 'In more ways than one.' "Along with humility." The A.D.A. inhaled deeply. 'Damn emotions.' "I wouldn't know where to start."

"Try the beginning?"

"The simplest approach, what a sneaky trick. Alright. I don't want to mislead and put you off; you of all people don't deserve that. I've had another job offer, Jack. I didn't want to spring on you in the middle of a case like this, but they need an answer on Monday. I've been thinking the pros and cons as I've put it off enough and…distracted by all of today's events or I would said this sooner. Now it has hit me all at once. Not very professional right now, I'm afraid."

Now it was Jack's jaw that plummeted on the ground. "I see. I guess you're thinking about taking it."

'I can do this. I can do this.' "I'm not sure yet but I'm leaning that way. It's the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern Distinct."

He absorbed the initial shock. "Ah, the 'bigger arena' you blurted out from Thursday."

"They're putting together a task force of major crimes." She tried her best to preserve a calm bearing.

"When would you start?"

"As soon as this case is over."

"Oh," he said in awe.

"But I would be right next door, so if there were any problems with any of my cases…"

"I wouldn't think so. You're one hell of an A.D.A., I always knew that. You'd be perfect for the job."

She blushed yet again. "Thank you. That means a lot coming from you."

"Just a co-worker to another co-worker." And he winked yet again.

'Yeah. Just a co-worker. This is what I wanted but why do I feel so…cheated in a small way?' "Right."

"So that's what's been bothering you. I have to ask, is there more to this because I've rather noticed how tense and preoccupied you've been lately. Is it loyalty to your current job? Fears of the new job, though I wouldn't know why?"

Abbie tensed up again. "That's a loaded question." 'And the start of a slippery slope and I wouldn't know where I'll be if I answer that.'

"I'm sure the answer will be too."

She sat down on the sand; the ebbing tide clung around her feet, the sun sliding downward. "I don't suppose I can plead the fifth now, can I?"

"You didn't make me do it. C'mon, Abbie, what's going on with you? You can tell me."

The unforgiving Texan A.D.A. stared up at him. 'Goddamn emotions. Anything can happen now. Great. But… he deserves to know and I…want him to know. I can't hide myself anymore.' "It's something that I've felt for several months now, if not a year. With S.V.U. and Adam's departure, I blocked it out just enough but it kept crawling up on me during those long nights with you. I thought about you. Not as a friend, or a boss, but something more. I didn't even know why I had these feelings but I did and I pushed them away with work because I knew better, thanks to my professionalism, your track record and the fact you didn't make any moves on me.

"It didn't help as I thought more about you and getting to know you, I saw the fact you're caring but you're not weak. I saw the fact about how similar you are to me, and the fact we work so well together and the fact that I can be myself with you in and apparently out of work. I knew the deck is stacked in New York with liberal people but you weren't, or just enough for me. That made dealing with the slimy defense attorneys and the occasional bleeding heart D.A.s that I thought I'd deal with easier because I found another like me.

"I saw the opportunity for the U.S. Attorney job because for several reasons: I have this professional woman image to maintain, I know Nora doesn't care for me and my views but mostly it was because of…you. I knew the more I'd fall for you, the more our cases might be overturned and exploited by those slimy lawyers because of claims of undue influence and undo our hard work. The victims don't deserve that. So I thought with great difficulty to take it because what I didn't want to happen is already taking place and honestly the fact that I'll be so busy that I'll never see you again, which is why I'm saying all this now and you deserve to know this.

"I don't want to call this…love or anything like that but it could lead to love and I'm afraid. Of your track record, of how you may see me in that light instead of the equality we have, and myself and all the risks. And now I've let my damn emotions get the better of me and make a complete ass out of myself in front of you, I think I made my decision regarding the job. I'll tell Nora the official notice Monday morning. You'll excuse me if I don't let you see me cry…again." She stood up, extricated her wallet from her pocket, counted and handed him some money. Jack still wide eyed and shocked from her monologue.

"Here is money for the subway. I want to say, thank you for the best day of my life. It's been so long since I had…fun. Good night, Jack."

She hurried away from him. Jack kept watching her disappearing image and then to the cherry hued sunset.

------------------------------------------------------

Abbie drove home, her mind replayed all the tastes, sounds, and images of the day. She finally got to her apartment and knocked herself down on the bed and thought about her E.A.D.A. and her admission of her feelings.

'The day felt good but I'm going to have such a hangover in the morning.'

She finally woke several hours later and towed herself to the bathroom. She caught the red light of her answering machine and pressed the button.

"Abbie, it's me. You left me with a lot to think about. I could say a lot on this machine, but I would rather say it face to face. Can we meet? Call me tomorrow. Bye."

'I could blow him off but…no, I don't want to leave him and be bitter about it. I'd sound like a typical teenage girl. I'll call him tomorrow.' She ventured back to her mattress.

'I wonder what he'll say. Will he return the feelings, because I did catch some possible hints now and then today? They weren't friendship based. I'm rather sure about that. Okay, not really, I'm not sure about anything. Certainly not about this. Maybe he'll let me down easy. Goodie, one of those type of talks or maybe…oh, stop thinking and go to sleep, Carmichael.'

Before she was unconscious, she did contemplate a small fantasy about kissing Jack and playing with his eyebrows.

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--May 14th, 2000

The sun once again snuck in and filled the A.D.A.'s apartment full of light. 'I hate mornings. Or mornings after a big day.' The alarm clock buzzed its usual sounds.

'10:30. Huh. Slept more than I thought. Guess it was all that thinking among other things.'

As she performed her morning routine, she noticed the phone. 'Can't put this off.'

She called his number and hoped he was asleep.

"Hello." He replied less jagged than yesterday morning.

"It's Abbie. I got your message."

"Yeah. Do you want to meet or you want me to say it over the phone?"

"I said what I had to say face to face."

"Abbie, you were staring at the ocean while you did it." He observed.

"Semantics. You can come here." She then forwarded her address.

"Alright, meet you in 30 minutes." He hung up.

'So should I spruce up or psyche myself up?' She surveyed the apartment. 'Oh hell, I got nothing to hide.'

She tidied up her living room couch and waited. 'Just wait for him to speak. Don't think the worst. Although…what if he feels the same way? Could be that possible?'

A knock on the door was heard and she rushed to open it. There was Jack in his traditional bottle green jacket with blue denim jeans and another polo shirt, holding his helmet.

"Had a good ride?" She asked dumbly.

"Even New York can't resist to the emptiness that is Sunday morning traffic."

"Come in. Want something to drink?" She let him inside.

"No, I'm good." He placed the jacket and the helmet on a table he located.

"So…" She commented, as they both sat down.

"So…. Anything you want to add or shall I just go ahead?"

She fortified herself from within. "Go ahead. Just forgive the occasional possible blushing."

"Okay, I've thought about this for a long while. I don't know where I'd begin."

"Try the beginning?" She mischievously mocked his line from last night.

He gave off a wry chuckle. "Okay. After Claire's death, I vowed never to be with another assistant again. I didn't want to go through that pain again. It doesn't help given the fact my ex-wife was one of my assistants. Jamie came along but she had a lot of baggage, and even so, I was still mourning Claire. Now with you, as you pointed out, you're different in that we're so similar. I got to…appreciate how similarity is actually a very good thing as I've been with the opposite both in a co-worker setting and a people setting, romantic interest notwithstanding.

"That said, I can't say I haven't thought about it with you as you're a very attractive woman. I'm not thinking just your body—I think with our common interests and personalities, it could actually work. But I knew then I didn't want either of us to go through the usual issues: the age difference, the job and all the secrecy, my track record with women, and with your rape, I'm sure we'd hit physical issues there too. I didn't want to screw up what we have because…it's one of the better work relationships I've had in a long time.

"However, the question being could I, do I want an actual relationship with you? After seeing you yesterday, in that light, without our pesky hard broiled images in the way, I think…I can. I think I can try one more time because, Abbie, I'm tired. I'm tired for exhausting all the possibilities: opposite attraction, sexual passions, combustion, competitions, mind games, and the only thing left I haven't tried is someone just like me and I never thought that possible until I met you. I'm tired of thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn't.

"Given my track record, I expect you to be unsure of me and I wouldn't blame you for using that as a reason not to. But believe me when I say I loved each woman for as far as I could take the relationships and give it my all, nor do I cheat. As for yes or no, if you say yes, we'll try and if we stumble, so be it, but we'll try our best. If you want to wait, then I'll wait as long as possible but I won't lie to you and say I'll wait forever for you to make up your mind, but I'll try. If not, then nothing will change. I'll still respect you all the same.

"As for me with this new job, I have no say, as I'm all too used to departing assistants and feel rather hypocritical if I did cling to you as opposed to the others. But no one will be happier than me because you'll get that bigger arena and take down the real dregs of humanity and perform real justice. Even if I never see you again, nothing will change. If you stay, nothing will change there either. As much as I'd like to be selfish, I know that's wrong. I just want you to be happy. That's all I have to say. I don't want you to say anything or make a decision now. Just tell me if and when you do. I'll see you at work tomorrow. And thank you for making May 12th one of the best days of my life too."

He got up, reacquired his items, and went out the door.

'There you have it. Now what do I do with it? Psychoanalyze it to death, naturally.'

She simply sat there as her pensiveness routed her for the protracted day and night.

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--May 15th, 2000

Jack was in his office, getting dressed in his business suit behind his door when Abbie sidled in.

"Jack?"

"I'm here. Just getting dressed." He appeared from the door and grabbed his tie. She shut his door.

"You gave me a lot to think about yesterday." She eyed him and how the sunlight bounced off his salt and pepper hair.

"Then we're even. So why are you here?" He didn't bat an eye.

"Last minute debating things in my head. I do have a question."

"Shoot."

"What was your relationship with Claire like?"

He pondered in silence for a few minutes. "At first, it was passionate, but my relationship with her was…turbulent at best. We fought, with that same passion, over political ideals, our jobs, everything. The combustible chemistry made the relationship energetic but also tiring. Right before her death, she was getting disenfranchisement with the job and our butting heads didn't help matters. I tried to dissuade her but she was stubborn like that. She died because of a drunk driver, which is why I'm a little harder on them. That case where you said I "hid" a witness? Just a drunk driver, nothing to do with anything but reminded me of the past." His eyes glinted in the sparkle of the past and also dulled as he moved on in life.

"Gotcha. Okay, well, we better get to work; we got a big day ahead of us with Pierce and Benton. And I got some phone calls to make and a meeting with Nora." She replied with vigor as she was ready to leave the office.

"I see. Good luck with Nora." He coordinated with her vim. "Abbie?"

She stopped with her back to him. "Yeah?"

"I don't have to tell you how much you'll be missed." The E.A.D.A. stated, respectfully.

'Guess now is as good as ever to slip him this as we won't have much time to ourselves today.'

She slipped something out of her suit jacket, faced him, and tipped forward. "Nah, you don't have to tell me that, but I'd still like hearing it." She then seized his right hand and slapped it just like she did after their first case together and left the room. To Jack's amazement, she slapped a diminutive note on his palm. He hesitantly read it and his renowned eyebrows arched at its contents.

"You never cease to amaze me, Carmichael."

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I just found out Luchow's demise was much earlier than I thought as I couldn't find out when the restaurant went out of business but I thought to add it in anyway to show my homage to the great restaurant and I can always substitute it for a current one in later if I need to.

My first long project in a long time, enjoy the possibilities. Leave a review if you wish and see you in the funny papers.